PRICE -- Two lawsuits led by environmental groups are challenging the state's approval of water rights for what would be Utah's first nuclear power plant.
The similar suits filed this week in 7th District Court in Price claim State Engineer Kent Jones failed to ensure that the proposed water use won't harm those who already rely on the water, including several species of endangered fish.
"Governor Herbert pretends to call for a debate on nuclear power, but meanwhile his administration approves water for the Green River nukes with only a cursory review," said Matt Pacenza of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, according to reports in The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/HfK8fO). "We felt we had no choice but to go to court so that someone could actually take a close look at this project."
Pacenza's group is one of several plaintiffs, including Uranium Watch, Living Rivers and the Utah Rivers Council.
Jones' Jan. 20 decision allows Kane and San Juan water conservancy districts to lease 53,600 acre-feet of their Colorado Basin water allotments to Blue Castle nuclear power plant developers. Jones rejected a late-February appeal of the ruling.
The proposed 3,000-megawatt nuclear plant would draw water upstream of the two southern Utah counties, about six miles from Green River.
Getting the water rights is the first regulatory step for the project. Developers are expected to apply for a site permit from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in coming months.
San Juan County water district manager Norman Johnson called the suits "part of the process," and said he's confident the engineer can defend his decision.
"We feel like we've looked at the applications carefully and reviewed the information carefully, and we are very comfortable with the decisions we've made," Jones said.